Hiroki Kuroda still hasn't quite figured out how best to use his stuff to effectively pitch at Yankee Stadium after his first couple starts, and he was facing an opponent last night who usually doesn't allow much margin for error and has a sparkling track record at the new Yankee Stadium in Felix Hernandez. The pressure was on Kuroda, and very much to his credit he delivered.
- When you're a sinkerball pitcher and the ball doesn't sink, you're usually in for a bad time. Kuroda threw a sinker that stayed up to Dustin Ackley to lead off the game and Ackley parked it in the left field seats for a HR and a 1-0 Seattle lead. It didn't look like a good omen for Kuroda or the Yankees.
- But Kuroda would recover from there and work through the 5th inning without any more damage, retiring 9 in a row from the 2nd-4th. His stuff was better, his command was good enough (even if he didn't get his first K until the 5th), and his defense was strong behind him.
- Hernandez came into the game last night with 3 wins and a 0.38 ERA in 3 starts at the new Stadium, but that streak of dominance would not continue. The Yankee offense manufactured a run in the bottom of the 1st to tie the game on a C-Grand single, SB, and RBI single from Robinson Cano.
- They didn't score again until the 6th, but the Yankee offense made Hernandez work. The only clean inning he had was the 3rd, and he needed a strong defensive play to keep a run off the board in the 4th after 3 straight Yankee singles. It seemed like only a matter of time before they broke through.
- In the top of the 6th, Yankee fans got a look at what they're missing when Jesus Montero cranked an opposite-field HR to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. It really wasn't a a horrible pitch, but Kuroda kept the slider up just enough and Montero's power was enough to drive it out.
- In the bottom half of the inning, the Yankee bats finally hit paydirt. A-Rod led off with a walk, Cano singled, and after 2 outs Raul Ibanez stepped in and smacked a 3-run HR to right field to give them a 4-2 lead. The RISP Fail demons had been tormenting them all night, but Ibanez's big blow seemed to take the wind out of Seattle's sails.
- After Kuroda worked a quick 7th, Joe went to the 'pen and played a great mix-and-match game with his available guys. Clay Rapada started the inning by getting Ichiro to ground out, then Cory Wade came in to get Jesus , and Boone Logan finished the inning with a strikeout.
- Insurance runs came in the form of a pinch-hit, 2-run homer from Andruw Jones in the 8th, and D-Rob got the final 2 outs in the 9th to seal the win.
- Kuroda: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, W. It's rare that another starting pitcher gets to say he outpitched Felix Hernandez, but Kuroda could say that last night. The 2 worst pitches he made ended up being solo home runs, but other than those he was pretty good.
- Cano: 4-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI. Not the power surge from last night, but another very good night at the plate for Cano, whose batting average rose above .300 for the first time this season.
- A-Rod: 2-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Another productive night at the plate for The Horse, who has 3 straight 2-hit games, 4 in his last 5, and 6 in his last 10.
- Ibanez: 1-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI. Helluva time for another home run from Raul.
- Russell Martin: 0-4, 2 K. Dude still can't find it.
Game 2 of the series is later this afternoon and there's 2 Yankees matching up on the mound, one current and one former in Phil Hughes and Hector Noesi. Both have had up-and-down seasons in the first month, but Hughes has been better lately and can put the finishing touches on holding down his spot in the rotation with another good outing. Don't look now, but the Yankees have won 4 of 5 and are one bad D-Rob outing away from it being 5 straight.
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